Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

He was a star who played antiheroes: Hud, Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy, smartass studs who defined the lure and limits of modern maleness. That seductive, spoiled grin said here was a fellow who could get away with anything, though his characters usually got their comeuppance — a resolution that mollified the Hollywood moralists while it was ignored by the male moviegoers who imitated him and the women who wanted to get lost in his blue eyes. But the actual Paul Newman had quieter attributes: constancy (a 50-year marriage to actress Joanne Woodward) and moral rigor. He did cool things well, like racing cars, and made doing good seem cool with his Newman's Own product line, which raised more than $250 million for charity. What would you call such a man? Maybe a hero.

Richard Corliss

See the Six Degrees of Barack Obama.